I’ve taken a big fat break from writing any new posts, but I’m ready to get back on the blogging saddle. What better way to start my first post of the year than to write about my day’s worth of classes at the Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco. I’m generally not a huge fan of the YJ conferences, mostly because they don’t often have Iyengar teachers participating. But about every other year or so, they manage to book Patricia Walden for their SF conference and this year was one of those years.
The conference is pretty expensive, so I opted to register for a one-day pass. Each day of the conference consists of three two-hour sessions, where you can choose from many different teachers and class themes. My goal was to sign up for as many sessions with Patricia as I could, which meant I would have two sessions with her: the late morning session and the end of the day session. I decided to choose Scott Blossom for my early morning session because he was going to lecture about Ayurveda and then do a short Shadow Yoga practice. I’ve always been really curious about Shadow Yoga after studying with a teacher who was deeply influenced by this style. It has its roots in Hatha Yoga, but is influenced by martial arts, and looks very much like a Tai Chi/Yoga combo. Needless to say, I was really excited about the day I had planned for myself.
I showed up to the Hyatt at 7:45, checked in at the registration desk, got my goody-bag of free samples and swag, then headed upstairs to my first session with Scott. The session was called “Yoga and Ayurveda: Wintertime Mojo”. As Scott explains in his handout for the class, we are in the transition between the dry, cool Vata season, and the wet, cold season of Kapha. In the wintertime he suggests we focus on a practice and a diet that brings warmth to balance the cold, dark days of winter. It overcomes our tendency for stiffness, depression, and it boosts the immune system. He quickly opened up the topic for questions, since time was precious and he wanted to make sure there was time left for an asana practice. He talked about things we could add to our diet, like sesame oil, coconut water, nuts, and licorice tea – all good things to add in the wintertime. Also eating beans and stews hold in moisture and are anti-diuretic. He also cautioned against doing a very rigorous practice. It seems logical to work the body hard to build up heat, but it can be counter-productive because the body will naturally stagnate, draw in and slow down when it feels overworked and stressed. He recommends working the legs, heart and lungs which helps the colon and circulation. Things like standing poses, inversions and backbends are particularly helpful. In the practice that followed, he
emphasized doing hanumanasana (encourages circulation) and bakasana (good for the internal organs). I had never done a Shadow Yoga practice before so the sequence he took us through was interesting, although I was sort of lost half of the time. He had several assistants wandering through the class and helping us to figure out what arm goes where and which hand grabs which foot. Overall, I really enjoyed it and it was fun to do something I don’t usually do.
I’d say the thing I took away from this session that stood out the most was his idea of using a ‘zen clock’. It’s a timer, that sounds a bell at a particular increment of time that you set it for, and the idea is that you stop whatever you’re doing at that moment, relax, take a deep breath (or two, or three) and just drop in for a minute, to a moment of relaxation and calm. I told my coworkers about this idea when I returned the next week to work and we decided to try it. We work in a fast-paced office with tight deadlines and find ourselves hunched over our computers for hours at a time, with no break. Every hour on the dot my coworker’s phone would chime, signaling us to let go of the computer mouse, sit up straight and tall, lengthen our spines, relax our facial muscles, close our eyes, and take several deep breaths. I can’t tell you what a great day we had and we all left work feeling a bit more relaxed and stress-free than we usually do. Maybe I won’t be able to do this every hour of every day, but if I can just remember to do it a few days a week, I know it will become an incredibly beneficial habit that just might stick.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ayurveda, Scott recommends the book “The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies” by Dr. Vasant Lad. I really enjoyed learning more about this sister science to Yoga, and how I can balance my constitution through a particular asana practice and diet. I’m really looking forward to our Ayurveda studies this year in my teacher training program. I’ll share whatever I learn on the subject in my future posts.
- Yoga Journal Conference – Pt.2 (fourelementsyoga.wordpress.com)